Thursday, 5 August 2010


Who Do You Think You Are? is a tv programme that tells the family stories of celebrities who have all sorts of researchers popping up to tell the celebs all about their history. Even when they type in a name on an Ancestry search site they get a result.
In real life the amatuer researcher doesn't always get that lucky.
The programme itself is designed to get people interested in geneology.

Geneology was something that I was into long before the tv series began and there certainly no experts popping out of the woodwork to say that they had found out something about my relatives.
My mother's side was relatively easy - I knew enough that to get to the 1700s family in Ponypridd, Wales took less time than I expected.
My father's side not so easy.

While my mother's family were happy to talk about their history my father's were very tight lipped except my great-grandfather who often spun tales about a mythical great aunt Sarah and The Saracen's Head near St. Paul's. She became almost legendary and the truth was, I discovered later, that Sarah was a formidable person. On reading the London Illustrated News for 1868 - the year that my great-grandfather was born - most of what he had told me was there. Though there was other stuff that I knew and not all of it in the public domain. To find them you have to read her will and old trials at the Old Bailey.
He was so proud of great aunt Sarah yet never knew the truth that he wasn't related to her - not by blood.
Certainly, Richard the man who became his father may have been related for my great grandfather and his brother were born before Richard married their mother.
Even then I have my doubts for there are no records of his birth except that he was an inmate of the Bermondsey Workhouse - but he did have a brother who was christened there and his father was certainly related.
But therein lies echoes of my great-grandfather's life for he was placed in an Industrial School after his father left the family. His mother remarried but he never knew what happened next.
Today we have access to numerous records and, to a degree, I do know what happened next and it is sad to note that there was another brother that he never knew about.

Geneology can be fun but the human side can be found.
If someone was to say that I come from a long line of bastards - they wouldn't be wrong for there are three generations of them and link two brothers from the 1700s who form a circle to my dad's paternal grandfather.

In many ways it is like writing a book. As each piece slots into place it builds into a family saga.
Death at sea during the Seven Years War; Ecclesiastical lawyers; fairground gypsies; marriners and shipbuilders; cigarette factory workers; bricklayers; carpenters; carters.
All with their triumphs and tragedies - christenings that are followed days later by a buriel are amongst the realities that life was harsher then than it is now.

When it is all said and done who we are is who we are - but it is good to know where the roots lie.
Be quite fun if one of my off spring became a celeb in a hundred years time and some researcher came up and says: 'I've just discovered this blog that your great-great grandfather did.'

In the labels section are a load of names just in case there are those out there who think they may have a link.

1 comment:

Oscar Case said...

Genealogy is a real kick. There are many interesting facts and stories that come out in a good search through a background.